Oaths of Office

What is an Oath of Office?

The Public Officer's Law requires public officials to take and file an oath of office. This requirement is set forth in Public Officer's Law §10, which provides, in part that "[e]very officer shall take and file the oath of office required by law..." The oath to which public officers must affirm is set forth in Section I of Article XIII of the New York State Constitution and provides:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ............, according to the best of my ability;"

Who is required to take an Oath of Office?

All public officers are required to take and file an oath of office, unless specifically exempted by statute. Public library, public library system, and reference and research library resources system trustees are considered public officers and must therefore take and file an oath of office. Public Officer's Law §10; Opinions of the State Comptroller 67-860. The oath of office must be taken and filed by trustees of all types of public libraries (village public, town public, city municipal, special legislative district public and school district public libraries), public library systems (with the exception of the three consolidated public library systems in New York City), and reference and research library resources systems.

Is a trustee of an association library required to file an oath of office?

No. Trustees of association libraries are not considered public officers but rather are considered trustees of a private, not-for-profit organization incorporated (chartered) by the Regents or created by a special act of the legislature.

Where should a library trustee file his or her oath of office?

It depends on the type of library. Public Officer's Law §10 specifies that a trustee or officer of a public library shall file the oath of office with the clerk of the county in which he or she resides. Town Law §25 specifies that a trustee or officer of a town file the oath of office with the town clerk. Town library trustees have the option of filing the oath with either the town clerk or the office of the county clerk.

Who administers the Oath of Office?

Public Officer's Law §10 specifies a number of officials who are authorized to administer an oath of office. For a library or library system trustee, the oath can be administered by either the clerk of the county in which the trustee resides or the president of the public library's board of trustees, provided the president has taken an oath of office. In addition, any judge of the court of appeals, the attorney general or any officer authorized to take the acknowledgement of the execution of a deed of real property in the state can administer an oath of office, such as a notary public.

Is there a specific time frame for filing an Oath of Office?

Yes. A public officer is required to file his or her oath of office within 30 days of commencing the term of office for which he or she is chosen, in the case of an elective office, or in the case of an appointive office, within thirty days after notice of his or her appointment or within 30 days after the commencement of such term. Public Officer's Law §30(1)(h).

Why is it important to file an Oath of Office?

The official oath is required by law in order for the trustee to officially undertake and faithfully discharge the duties of a trustee. Failure to take or file the oath of office may cause the trustee’s position to be deemed vacant. Public Officer's Law §30(1)(h).

Who fills Unexpired Terms of Trustees?

With certain exceptions, according to Education Law §226.(4), the board of trustees may fill unexpired terms of trustees due to death, resignation, refusal to act, removal from office, expiration of term, or any other cause specified in the charter. Trustees named to fill unexpired terms of office must file an oath of office.

When can the Board of Regents fill vacant trustees’ positions?

According to Education Law §226.(4), the Board of Regents may fill vacant trustee positions when any vacancy in the office of trustee continues for more than one year, or any vacancy reduces the number of trustees to less than two-thirds of the full number of board members.

Where can I get more information on Oaths of Office?

For further information on oaths of office and other aspects of public library trusteeship, contact your public library system. Public library systems and reference and research library resources systems should contact their liaison at the New York State Library, Division of Library Development.

Last Updated: July 29, 2010 -- asm; for questions or comments, contact us